Hampi was a completely new world for me. A new world which was thousands of years old. The history alone is uninterrupted from the 7th century. Walking around through the many abandoned temples and structures I could not help but imagine the people that built these magnificent structures.
The massive slabs of stone that were quarried and carried to the sight. There were large temples situated on top of rocky hilltops that were an effort to climb up. Imagine the effort that went into getting the stone up there. The carvings on the stone pillars were amazing, the symmetry of columns and fine detail of scenes, each telling a story, intricately carved into the hard granite and marble stone.
Here I was rushing along my life chasing toward some unknown destination, always in a hurry to get the task at hand complete so that I can get going on the next task because I knew that after that the next task was already waiting. Looking at these ancient buildings and massive statues that surrounded me I came to the realization that for some of the craftsman, a single statue or a single temple pillar could have been a life’s work. Imagine that, your entire life, dedicated to carving out a single chunk of stone. Hammer blow by hammer blow the craftsman turned massive boulders into avatars of their God. I would get frustrated when my computer started too slowly or a program would not open instantly. Here these people could spend possibly half a day just sharpening their chisels so that they could get back to work. How did they measure their progress? Did they have the time pressure to get the job done? A slight slip of the chisel or a missed time strike of the hammer could ruin years’ worth of work. Imagine the concentration, the patience, the commitment that these skilled masons had. In Hampi, you will find flights of stairs carved out of the mountainside, a path for worshipers and the monks to make their way to the top of the mountain. A path to the temple. The ramparts for the fortresses, built with such huge blocks of granite that it would seem impossible to move without modern machinery. Some of these structures must have taken generations to build.
Patience, commitment, precision. The journey, not the destination. Hammer blow by hammer blow, the city was constructed over generations of people. There is a certain romantic beauty about the speed that life moved in those days. For all I know, the people might have worked under the most terrible working conditions. And that I guess is the thing with us people. We have this yearning for that which we do not have. If I was alive in that time, I might have found my work tedious and unfulfilling. Yet here I was, somehow romanticizing about an age long gone and far away from the demons that had chased me here.
And then Hampi was raided in 1565 and the stone masons would have to down their tools and pick up weapons. All the hard work had come to an end, the craftsman were transformed into warriors. Now the task was no longer creating it was defending and destroying. The residents of Hampi lost the battles. Much of Hampi was destroyed. Yet the people continued to worship in the temples. They regrouped after the fall of Hampi and carried on. The glory of Hampi was no longer on such a grand scale, yet the spirit survived.
Patient Craftsmen, Religious Monks, Devoted Worshipers, Fierce Warriors, Farmers, Traders, Children. Hampi was a fully functioning ancient city.
My life seemed to lack many of these virtues. I had nothing to fight for, my country was not at war. I had no grand temple that I was patiently building, there was no task that involved absolute precision with every move that I made. My life felt as empty as some of the ruins that I was wandering through. Empty, neglected, ruins. However, much like the ruins that surrounded me, the main structure still stood. The foundations were strong. The walls secure, the roofs still sturdy on the trusses. The finer details worn down but the years of nature and neglect. That was kind of like my life. I had a solid foundation. My walls were strong and I had a roof. In fact, whilst sitting on top of the mountain top watching the sunrise with a group of complete strangers from all over the world, I realized that I had a wonderful framework to build on. I could decorate how I wanted to. I could paint with bright colors and broad strokes. I could plant gardens and hang rich tapestries. I was waking up to the realization that this was not the end. This was a new beginning. I could lay dormant like many of the old Hampi ruins, or I could rebuild and redecorate and keep on going like the main temples of Hampi. The shining pride of the old city, still standing in all its glory.
So here I am, 6 months after my trip. I have the determination that I had when I started work in my early 20’s. I have the same passion that I had when I first made love to my girlfriend. I have the energy and excitement that I had when I walked out of my final exam after 12 years at school. I have a greater sense of adventure now than I did when I took my first steps out of the airport in Perth 20 odd years ago.
My breakdown was not the end of me. It was simply the inevitable outcome of a life that was not fully lived. My breakdown had become my breakthrough. I had realized that from that very moment I was faced with a blank canvass and I got to choose what to paint on it. Every single day, I had a new canvass that I could paint on. I could paint and paint and paint until I understood that it is the act of painting that becomes the joy not the complete painting hanging on my wall. The complete painting is just a reminder of the joy that I had along the journey.